How Absolutely stupid do scammers think we are?

My sister forwarded the following email to me last night.

FW: Attn: This is to inform

you that we the fbi have a

warrant to arrest you if we

dont hear from you

immediately,this is the final

warning you are going to

receive from the fbi office do

you get me? I hope youre

understand how many times

this message has been sent to

you. We have warned you so

many times and you have

decided to ignore our e-mails

we have been instructed to get

you arrested immediately,

and today if you fail to

respond back to us with the

payment then, we will close

your bank account and jail

you and all your properties

will be confiscated by the

fbi.Robert Mueller, III FB I


We both laughed at this one.  What you see above was the subject line and there was nothing in the body of the e-mail.  Spelling and grammar errors aside, FBI is always in capital letters.  If you get this in your e-mail, just ignore it.  It is a blatant attempt at fraud.


He’s in the jailhouse now!

Have you ever opened an email from a trusted friend saying that they are stuck in a foreign country?  I get one of these emails at least once a week.  I think all of my friends are stuck or locked up somewhere.    I don’t have any friends left…not!  This is an old phishing/fraud scheme.  It refuses to die because people still fall for it.  It has also mutated over the years into another form that many people fall for.

It is a variation of the old standby, someone you know stuck in a foreign county and desperately needing your help.  You get an email stating that they have been robbed or mugged and now they need you to send them the money to get home.  Some people will fall for it but most of us tend to know when our friends are taking a trip to an exotic locale because they tell us.  If you were headed to Rome or the South of France for a week, you would be telling all your friends too!  Even if it was just to see a bit of envy on their face.

So it has mutated into a newer version, ‘The Prison Phone call’ scam.  The first time I ran into this scam, I laughed so hard I was almost in need of a box of Depends.  It was several years ago when I was working for the police department.

I answered the phone to hear a recorded message saying that an inmate had called from that number and that the number was to a correctional institution. I was given a number to call because the number they were calling from was part of a prison phone system that did not accept inbound calls.  Sounds reasonable doesn’t it?  Until you think for a moment.  The person who called from that number was not identified nor was the correctional institution.  Big red flags.

Who was it that called?  If I didn’t know who called who was I supposed to be calling them back about.  The other issue? What jail or prison did the call originate from?  The message was designed for one reason, to get people to dial the number.

Here’s the catch.  That number is not ringing where you think it is ringing.  It is ringing in a foreign country somewhere.  Even if it is a US area code, it has been forwarded to an out of country number.  You dial it and you pay.  This one still pops up and the Holidays are a perfect time for this and many more scams.  It’s a hectic time for most people, lots of people you know are traveling here and there and it is reasonable that things happen.

Keep two things in mind.  If you receive a call about someone being in jail any message you receive should should include the name of the correctional institute and the person who the call is from.



Here’s a new hit song for identity thieves!

This song is blowing up the Top Ten on the Identity Identity Theft Hit Parade!  Da Dumpster Dive!  These guys may be diving in for old Kool Aid and Bagels, but Identity thieves dive in for a different reason.

By now most of us are understanding the need to shred our old personal documents.  An in home shredder is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity.  And we know that it needs to be DOD Approved and not a ribbon shredder.  Ribbon shredders just create jigsaw puzzles for identity thieves, strips can be pieced back together to harvest information.  With individual getting more savvy about the destruction of information, your home trash is much less attractive to identity thieves than this item.

Why are dumpsters so attractive to identity thieves?  Well you always find dumpsters near businesses.  Businesses gather all sorts of personal information from their clients and customers.   Names, addresses, phone numbers, account numbers and the list goes on.  And businesses do not always follow the law when it comes to disposal on this information.

It is a fairly common event to turn on your local news to see a report about files dumped in dumpsters.   Honest people come across these files and report it to news reporters, police or others and it ends up on your evening news.  For every honest person that reports the situation, how many dishonest people are taking the information for nefarious purposes.

Personal information found in dumpsters is a gold mine.  The thief does not have to use you information personally.  There is a huge black market out there for personal information and the thieves know this.  They can make a fortune selling what they find in these dumpsters.

If a business you have dealt with improperly disposes of your personal information in a dumpster, and a thief gets his hands on it; well that information can be sold as many times as the thief wants.  Multiple people can buy and use your information.  This is why it is important to have a plan, to be able to react quickly and at any time to respond to identity theft issues.

Yet another way an attorney can save your bacon!

I came across this nice little video available on the Federal Trade Commission Website.  It’s called “Fraud-An Inside Look”.  You can order the DVD For free from the FTC’s site.

It’s about 10 minutes long and a convicted scammer talks about fraud and how he runs a scam on his victims.

How does this tie in with an attorney?  One of the steps that the FTC advises to anyone looking for business opportunities is to investigate it thoroughly and as a part of your due diligence, consult with an attorney.  Many people lose money by getting involved with scams and having an attorney evaluate what you are considering before you join, can save you from that.

Attorneys are not just for crisis issues.  In many cases such as business opportunity scams, consulting with an attorney beforehand can avert the crisis.  And if you intend to start, invest in, own or join a business; an attorney can help you go about it the right way.

You’re Repo’ing my car? But I’m only 4 years old!

As parents, the safety of our little ones is important.  We put time and effort into teaching them how to be safe.  For example “Don’t talk to strangers.”  We don’t teach them to protect their identities.  We don’t even consider them at risk for the most part.

Most of us still consider Identity Theft a financial issue.  It’s all about our credit cards and bank accounts.  And our kids don’t have credit cards.  And usually a parent or trusted adult is listed on that bank account so our children won’t become a victim.

Actually our children are prime targets for identity theft.  I didn’t get a social security number until I was 8 years old.  I wouldn’t have gotten it then, but my mother applied for mine when she applied for my older brother’s just to get it out of the way.  Now our newborns are often coming home from the hospital with Social Security numbers already assigned to them.

A child has something very valuable to Identity thieves-Clean Credit.  They also don’t use that credit so a thief has years and years to use the child’s information with almost no risk of discovery.  Child identity theft victims may not find out until they apply for a driver’s license or for college financial aid.  The activities of an Identity thief can ruin the life of a childhood victim.

As parents we need to be aware of the risk to our children and we need to teach our children about protecting their identity.  Make the protection of Personally Identifying Information a family issue.  Have children help with shredding documents.   To get them in the habit, let them shred some of their old school papers.  Always check junk mail for credit card or other offers of credit in your child’s name.  Consider enrolling your child some form of Identity theft protection designed for children, like Safeguard for Minors.

The important thing is to teach them to be aware and protect their identities.

Are you sure you are alive?

Recently the CDC released a Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness alert.  We all thought it was a good joke but…It seems that there are zombies living in the US!  Are you sure that you are not one of them?


There are no outward symptoms of being a zombie that you would notice.  You will not experience sudden convulsions or cravings for brains.  You won’t attack your friends, family and neighbors in a ravenous hunger.  In fact you really won’t experience any physical changes at all.  You will continue on as you always have with one difference, you will be dead; at least on paper.

In 1980 the Social Security Administration made available a little something known as the Death Master File.  The purpose of this file is to prevent consumer fraud using the information of the deceased.  The plan is that when you die, your information is placed on this list to prevent fraudulent use.

Unfortunately it’s not just the dearly departed that end up on this list.  According to Scripps Howard News Service, clerical errors add as many as 1,200 living people to the DMF On a monthly basis.  That is 1,200 brand new zombies shambling about without a clue each month.    Suddenly you no longer exist.  This file is easily available and it was created to prevent the fraudulent use of information sooo…

Imagine going down to your local car dealership and picking out the fancy sports car you always wanted.  The salesman runs your credit history and you find out that the dead don’t need cars.

Or you are a younger person on your way to further your education at college.  You turn in the paperwork to get financial aid and find out that the dead don’t need an MBA from MIT.

Here’s a real kicker! With many people beginning to accept the option of preplanning funerals, imagine having your pre-needs counselor say, “Don’t you think it’s a little late to be pre-arranging your funeral, Mr. Jones?  After all you died in 2002!”

Comical Yes, unless you are the zombie in question.  Now you are looking at the prospect of legally resurrecting yourself.  Perhaps even being accused of stealing your own identity!  Either way you are looking at finding your way through a legal maze to get back to life.


My credit is so bad I wish someone would steal my identity

Many people have said some variation those words in the title of this post to me.   That is proof of just how successful the financial industry was in it’s campaign to educate the public about financial fraud which is a type of identity theft.  The problem is that they called financial fraud identity theft creating a big misconception with the public.

Financial identity theft is only one type of identity theft.  There are several parts to your identity theft have nothing to do with your credit history and good credit or bad credit doesn’t matter.  Thieves can still use the other areas of your identity, for example your criminal history or lack thereof.  And if a thief uses this part of your identity you will wish that they had maxxed out your credit cards instead.

Imagine minding your own business and driving home one afternoon when you see the dreaded blue lights in your rear view mirror.  You look down at the speedometer and realize that you are traveling 10 miles over the speed limit.  You realize that you are about to get a traffic ticket.  You and the officer go through the routine he’s in a good mood and very polite as he tells you that he’s going to run your license. You notice his demeanor has changed on the way back to the car as he aims his weapon at you and orders you out of the car and on the ground.

You of course, are confused.  You don’t have a clue until he tells you that you are under arrest for some serious crime that you didn’t commit.  You are of course telling him the same thing that he hears all the time, “It wasn’t me.”  The only difference between you and all those other criminals that he has arrested is that you are actually telling him the truth.  He just doesn’t believe you because there is a warrant issued in your name.

If you want to see a very good example of Criminal Identity Theft, I suggest you rent the movie The Jackal starring Bruce Willis and Richard Gere.  While it is considered a a Thriller, it’s also a perfect example of Criminal Identity Theft.  Bruce Willis plays the Jackal and commits a series of identity thefts to commit a planned assassination.  There’s even a scene showing how he gets one of his stolen identities.

It’s the little things that matter

When you see this in your yard, how much attention do you pay to it?

I’ll bet you don’t pay any attention at all do you?  It’s  just a little ant and beneath your notice.

But what if you saw this on your front lawn?I’ll just bet that would make you sit up and take notice wouldn’t it?

So what do ants and elephants have to do with anything?  It a good visual example of how easy it is for an identity thief to commit financial fraud.  If you think that the identity thief is looking for the ‘big score’, think again.

Identity thieves are most effective in making multiple little purchases, not major ones.  We would notice the major purchase while the smaller one gets over looked.

Think about it for a moment, when you pick up your credit card bill and give that cursory once over that most people do which of the following two purchases would jump up slap you in the face and say “Hey I’m fraudulent!”?

The $5000 charge for a home theater system or the $30 charge for gas at Exxon?  Of course you would notice the $5000 charge because that is the elephant.  It is obvious that you don’t have a new home theater system, but you probably did buy gas at some point.

This is why saving your receipts for credit card charges is so important.  If you have multiple cards, you need to note on that receipt which card you used.  When you get your bill, compare it to the receipt and immediately dispute fraudulent charges with your credit card company.  It may be only nickels and dimes, but nickels and dimes add up to dollars!

A victim of mortgage fraud speaks out.

Many homeowners right now are facing foreclosure.  I came across this article at in which one victim tells her story of mortgage fraud.

This lady got into a mess with a loan modification.  She opted for the modification to prevent falling behind on her payments or have her credit ruined.  In the end she ended up some $7000 delinquent in her payments.

One thing that we all need to understand is that contracts are drafted by attorneys.  When you sign any contract  (especially those ‘standard’ contracts), that document was drawn up on behalf of the other party by their attorney.   The fact is that the attorney was working for the other side, not you.

This is why it is so important to have contracts reviewed by an attorney on your behalf.  You probably know someone who has been burnt by signing a contract.  Balloon payments immediately come to mind.  How many people do you know that bought a car and found out when they got around to those final payments that the payment had skyrocketed?  Maybe it has happened to you?

Had an attorney for the buyer reviewed that contract, the balloon payment would have been revealed by the buyers attorney along with any other hidden surprises.  Perhaps I shouldn’t say hidden because it is spelled out in that contract somewhere but most of us don’t read the complete contract or we read it and act like we know what it means.  We don’t want to look stupid.

Not understanding a contract does not make you stupid, it simply means that you are not an attorney.   You just don’t have the needed training and education to understand it, an attorney does.  Wouldn’t it be smarter to have someone who does understand review it for you and then tell you what you are getting ready to legally agree to?